Cities, Pollution, Quality of Life and the Global Warming Debate

Over at Planetzien today there is a link to a new documentary in which scientists raise counter evidence to the theories behind global warming. It’s very un-politically correct right now to question it, so I’m probably taking a risk in writing this post.

As someone trained in world history (big picture, thousands of years of human history) I’m skeptical about some of the climate change science. The world’s climate is constantly changing — always has been. Human historical records can tell us this. There have also been periods of intense climate change, similar to what we may or may not be experiencing right now, which have had an impact on human development. Given scientific instruments for accurately measuring temperature have only been around for 50 years, I don’t doubt this year was the warmest on record — it’s just that record isn’t very long.

The planet has been warming since the end of the last mini ice age in roughly the 17th century — before the industrial revolution. Maybe human action is accelerating the process, maybe not — but because our planet is now urban, we need to stop polluting regardless.

Pollution that some scientists blame for global warming also causes elevated rates of cancer as well as asthma and other breathing difficulties. Eye irritation, throat soreness and general malaise also comes from pollution — all of this impacts the quality of urban life.

Therefore we need to reduce pollution — now. Especially as the planet becomes more urban.

Want science? As reported in the Journal of American Medical Society, during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the city forced local residents to use transit and this greatly reduced the number of polluting vehicles on the roads. Hospitalizations for breathing difficulties declined 41% during the Olympics.

Not only do we need to reduce pollution, but we need to help the ecology of cities. Planting more trees helps to clean the air for our breathing and makes a city more livable. Whether they help with global warming or not, we should be doing this.

What I hope is that the current belief in global warming will convince more people to make choices to reduce pollution and thereby improve the quality of life in cities. Politicians might enact new policies to increase density and transit use; businesses might encourage employees to use transit, car pool, telecommute occasionally; individuals might find ways to reduce automobile use and live in smaller houses (that don’t require so much energy to heat and cool).

Such changes will improve the quality of life for cities and citizens. We’d see immediate impacts like asthmatics did in Atlanta during the Olympics. And, because any one city can improve its quality of life by reducing pollution — you don’t have to be as worried if other countries and cities are not doing so.

What I worry about in the current global warming discussion is that the science will suddenly be discredited and people will stop making the tough personal choices required to improve our cities air and life quality. The science of how pollution creates disease is far more overwhelming than the science behind climate change, and yet it wasn’t enough to bring change (except for short periods such as during Olympic games).

This seems odd to me. Why do we worry about a theoretical risk to the planet, but not a known impact on our own lives?

5 comments

  1. Pat says:

    That’s the single most intelligent, reasonable thing I have ever heard anyone ever say on the topic of pollution/global warming. Unfortunately, it seems that either most environmentalists are idiots or the idiot environmentalists just speak louder. I think the fact that jokers like Al Gore, and now John Kerry, have become the main spokespeople for this movement is proof enough of this. I mean, seriously, these assholes couldn’t even beat Bush in an election and now they want to save the world… think about that, Bush is about as charismatic as rain man. I’m pretty sure the world is doomed as long as these guys are its main proponents. Hopefully, in the near future, a reasonable voice like yours will be the spokesman for the environment, and not these pseudo-treehugging, carpetbagging shockjocks of all things green ($).

  2. Wendy Waters says:

    Thanks for your comment Pat. I think Al Gore genuinely means well — but he doesn’t understand the science and evidence that well. As a professional politician almost his whole life, he knows how to build an argument in sound bite form. But if you watch his movie, he is contradictory in different segments and at times illustrates that he really doesn’t connect the dots of what he is saying.

    As long as you don’t think about each part of his message in relation to the others, it’s powerful.

    As I said, if he can get people to re-think “automobilism” or re-think aspects of their own lives such that it improves the quality of life in our cities — that would be great. It might not make any difference to the planet’s warming trend — but at least we’d be breathing cleaner, if warmer air.

  3. Bodydetoxguy says:

    the effect of Global Warming these days is even worst. i think every government should pass stricter laws on Carbon Emissions. we should also concentrate more on renewable energy sources and avoid fossil fuels.

  4. Tacnet says:

    - We should be more concerned about Global Warming and Climate Change because Typhoons are getting much stronger and there are greater incidence of Flooding. take for example the recent Typhoon Ketsana which devastated some countries in South East Asia.

  5. global warming is a disaster that we should avoid at all cost but i am afraid that we are too late already ;;

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